New federal program aims to expand Arizona tourism from Mexico

Dec 24, 2020, 12:30 PM | Updated: 2:46 pm
(Photo by Dimitros Manis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)...
(Photo by Dimitros Manis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Photo by Dimitros Manis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — A pilot program implemented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection will expand travel opportunities for frequent short-term visitors coming from Mexico to Arizona.

Currently, Mexican citizens visiting Arizona with a Border Crossing Card to conduct business, go shopping or see family and friends cannot travel beyond Tucson and Yuma.

New legislation will extend the tourism zone to allow these visitors to travel anywhere in Arizona and New Mexico, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments.

The program would be established through funds provided by the massive federal spending bill Congress passed on Tuesday, although the outcome of the legislation is in doubt because President Donald Trump has threatened to veto it.

“As a representative of a district that shares a border with Mexico, I know first hand the direct, real and positive impact of cross-border exchange in our region,” U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick said in a press release.

“Expanding the accessibility of our state to our southern neighbors will enrich our tourism industry, bolster our local economy and strengthen our relationship with Mexico.”

Arizona’s tourism industry generated $26.5 billion in direct travel spending and $3.78 billion in tax revenue in 2019.

Expanding the travel zone is projected to bring an additional $181 million in annual spending to the state and is expected to increase each year, according to research by the University of Arizona.

“Modernizing and expanding Arizona and Mexico’s approved cross border travel fuels jobs, promotes commerce, and expands economic opportunity across our state,” U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said in the release.

Border Crossing Cards are issued exclusively to Mexican citizens by the U.S. and allow visitors to be in the country for less than 72 hours.

In order to obtain a Border Crossing Card, fingerprints, a photo, employment information, a security background check and an in‐person interview are required. Card holders may only stay in the U.S. temporarily and must prove they have ties to Mexico that will compel them to return.

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New federal program aims to expand Arizona tourism from Mexico